How to piece and sew curves

Circles are a daunting prospect for us quilters – usually we’re all about straight lines! But, actually, with a little 
know-how, it’s easy to translate techniques you already know into 
a skill that’ll have you sewing circles in no time.

How to sew curves

Our tech expert Sarah Griffiths will show you how to piece and sew curves in our step by step guide. You can also put these skills to use by sewing our pieced curves tote bag design!


How to cut and use interfacing for simple circles

Step 1

Draw a circle with a diameter ½in wider than your desired finished size on the non-sticky side of a piece of interfacing. A compass is the perfect tool for creating circles of any size. Simply open it out so the distance between the pencil and the sharp point is equal to the radius of the finished circle you want (see the Circle Basics, below, for a refresh on these geometry terms). You will probably also be able to find lots of circular things around your house to trace around too. You can use rolls of tape, vases, upturned bowls, plates, or anything else you can find.

drawing a template using a compass on a cutting board

Step 2

Pin the interfacing, sticky side up, to the right side of a piece of fabric. Do not iron yet. Sew the two layers together around the outer edge using a ¼in seam. Use a pinking blade to trim the seam. This will give you smooth edges when you turn the circle out later. If you don’t have a pinking blade, cut little notches all the way around the edge, being careful not to accidentally clip your seam line.

Cutting fabric on a cutting board using a pinking blade and a template

Step 3

Carefully pull the interfacing away from your fabric and make a cut in the centre of the circle through the interfacing only. Turn your circle right sides out through this cut. Use a Hera marker or point turner to push out the edges all the way around your circle. Lay the circle flat on your ironing board, fabric side up, and finger press the seam, checking you are happy with the edge. Press with your iron to secure the fabric to the interfacing. You now have a circle ready for appliqué.

turning a fabric circle right side out
Diagram explaining the diameter, radius and arc of a circle

How to prepare and assemble pieced circles

Step 1

Draw a large circle (or any other shape) using a marker to outline your final design. Then using a compass, or a variety of circular objects, draw arcs through the shape using a pencil. Experiment with different designs, erasing and adding new lines, until you are happy. As long as the two ends of any line meet the edges of your outline or any other drawn line, your pattern will work.

Drawing circle shapes on paper

Step 2

Add letter labels to each filled section of your design. Trace the design onto a piece of heavyweight interfacing, copying the letter labels too. Now cut out each section of the design. Press the pieces onto the reverse of different scraps of fabric and cut around the shapes leaving ¼in around each edge.

Cutting out pieces for a curves quilt design

Step 3

Press the raw edges to the wrong side, clipping curves where necessary. Line up your pieces wrong side up, referring to your original drawing. Make one or two marks along joined curves. These will help you line up the pieces correctly later on.

Lining up curves quilt pieces

Step 4

Line up two pieces, right sides together, aligning the end points. Begin whip stitching together at the corner, just as you would with English paper piecing. Continue stitching, until you reach the end of an edge, rotating the pieces as needed and matching your alignment marks from the previous step. Knot off your thread. Keep adding pieces until they are all joined. Gently press flat, and your circle is complete.

Stitching curved quilt peices together


Try it now: Everyday Tote

Layer and piece colourful curved shapes for a handy tote to carry your quilting

You will need

  • Interfacing
  • A variety of fabric scraps (we used ten different fat quarters from our stash)
  • Contrast strip 22in x 9in
  • Cotton/linen blend tote fabric, one (1) 17 ½in x 12 ½in piece and one (1) 17 ½in x 19 ½in piece
  • Lining fabric 17 ½in x 32in
  • Cotton webbing for handles, two (2) 18in pieces

Finished Size

16in square


All seam allowances are ¼in, unless noted otherwise.

Fabrics used

Prints used for the circles are in Chromatics by Art Gallery Fabrics.

Step one: Draw nine (9) 3in, 4in and 5in circles on your interfacing, for a total of thirty-six (36) circles. Make appliqué circles as described in steps 1–3 of the piecing curves guide above.

Step two: Layer small, medium and large circles and secure together with a dot of washable glue. Arrange your stacks of circles on the contrast strip and pin them in place. Next, stitch the circles in place by hand or machine. Then trim the strip to 17 ½in x 3 ½in.

Step three: Make one large circle following steps 4–7 of the piecing curves guide above.

Step four: Sew your two pieces of tote fabric to the top and bottom of your strip. Then sew your large pieced circle in the centre of the small piece of tote fabric.

Step five: Cut and sew two rectangles, right sides together, leaving an opening. Turn right sides out and press. Attach to your lining, sewing three sides, to make a pocket and closing the remaining pocket opening in the process. Centre your lining piece on top of the tote piece, wrong sides together.

Step six: Press under ¼in and then 1in of both short raw edges, toward the lining side. Insert the raw edges of your handles under the folds at each end, making sure they are aligned, and pin in place. Fold the handles up and topstitch along the folds of the tote.

Step seven: Fold the tote in half, with the lining sides facing each other. Sew along the two long sides using a ¼in seam. Turn the tote wrong sides out and press. Sew along both long sides again using a ½in seam. Turn your tote the right way out and you’re done!

quilted curves design tote bag